Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 03:24:29
17 December 2018

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Everyday Russia


Tuesday, November 08, 2016


by Irina Novikova

Name: Irina Novikova

Age: 30

Profession: Museum employee

City: Smolensk

How long have you been doing photography? I am not a professional photographer. I merely photograph what seems interestiong or beautiful to me, like most people. Photography to me is like a visual notebook. 

What style or genre most interests you? I love portraits and landscapes, both looking at them and taking them.

Can you give us a short description of your city? Where is it located? What is it famous for? I photographed my hometown: Smolensk and Smolensk Oblast. Smolensk is a provincial city located 400 km west of Moscow. It is not large, just a bit more than 300,000 residents. Smolensk is a keystone city: for its more than 1000-year history it has stood on the path of armies seeking to sieze Moscow. The Polish-Lithuanian state, Napoleonic France, the Second World War... more than once Smolensk was beseiged and destroyed, but to this day its courage and perserverence are a source of pride to every Smolenskers. Smolensk is a Hero-City, a place of beauty and hard work. Smolensk Oblast is the homeland of the composer Mikhail Glinka, the writer Isaac Asimov and the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.  

What are some things that only locals would know about the city? Many believe that Smolensk Oblast is the site of many hidden treasures. The most famous is Napoleon's Treasure. According to legend, after his 1812 retreat from Moscow, Napoleon's army tossed the treasures they stole when they occupied the Russian capital into Semlyovsky Lake in Vyazemsky Region. During the Second World War, in conditions of extreme secrecy, not far from Smolensk the German army created an underground complex called Berenhalle, which had a bunker for Hitler. To this day the rumor of a secret Hitler Bunker (and the treasures hidden there) persists. To this day, treasure hunters are looking for valuables that Count Sheremetyev hid in his estate in Smolensk Oblast, when he hastily fled the country in 1917.

Which places or sites are a must for someone to see if they visit your city? One of the city's main sites is the Smolensk Fortress Wall. It as built in the sixteenth century for the city's defense, and has survived to the present day. You can climb up on one of its towers and see a panorama of Smolensk, and thereby prove for yourself if one of the many city legends about the ghosts of the fortress wall are true. According to one story, one of those ghosts is that of a beautiful young woman, buried in one of the towers when the fortress was being built. Reputedly, her laugh can be heard to this day, and thus the tower is named Veselukha (little happy one).

Old churches have been preserved in the city, for example the Church of Peter and Paul and Svirsky Church, built in the twelfth century. On Cathedral Hill the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary rises up. It was built in the seventeenth century.

Take a walk through the historical center: here architecture from the nineteenth century sits peacefully alongside that of ancient monasteries.

And, in order to bring you good luck, I recommend you visit the bronze deer in Blonya Park and stroke his private parts. Judging by how they shine, both guests and residents of the city have been very lucky indeed.

One of the world's largest enterprises for cutting diamonds is in Smolensk, the Kristall Factory. There is also the distillery Bakhus. Thus, one could, as a souvenir, pick up some diamonds or the famous Smolensky Balsam.

Instagram: @irina.f.novikova

  • Fortress

    Smolensk Fortress.

    Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Cheese

    Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Cafe

    Having a rest in a cozy secret place with books and ginger tea. There is Apfelhaven cafe, which means Apple orchard in Danish. It is not so easy to find it among the monotonous buildings.

    Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Waiting

    Last week I visited a church to attend service and talk with a priest, but I found the church almost empty. A notice on the door said that service would be in another church. I ran there and saw hundreds of people staying in the sandy field. They were waiting for the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; or the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was coming to consecrate a place in Smolensk where young Prince Gleb was killed 1000 years ago. According to the Chronicle, Gleb was murdered by his elder brother Sviatopolk during the internecine war for the Kiev throne. Saint Gleb and his brother Saint Boris (also killed) are the patron saints of all Russian princes. In the photo: waiting for the Patriarch. Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Artist

    We had the good fortune to get to know a fine man and gifted artist, Anatoly Kovalev. We visited his uncommon studio in an ordinary 5-storey house. The artist was working on a scenic bas-relief to be mounted above a fire-place. He showed us his paintings and bas-reliefs, old furniture that needed to be restored, old-fashioned hanging clocks and a skillful embroidery. What a pleasure to live and to work among things having a very rich history. Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Milk Machine

    This is a vending machine that sells whole milk in special way. You pay, then put a bottle under the faucet and then get your milk, which is pretty good. It costs 40 rubles (or 60 US cents) per liter.  Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Dnepr

    In the picture you can see the Dnepr river.

    Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Orchard

    Newton would have liked this apple orchard in the centre of the noisy town. Apples constantly fall to the ground and nobody tastes them but the birds. 

    Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Roof

    Six years ago my friends and I went up onto the roof of nine-storey house. We held a picnic with wine, fruits and a hookah, or shisha. Hardly had we started, when the door to the roof opened and giant pitbull appeared. It rushed at us, and we run away like mad... Well, today the very Tatiana took me to the roof of the same nine-storey building. She is a roofer, that means she likes to explore roofs. Once she spent a night in a tent pitched on a roof. Tatiana practices quiet and pacific urban exploration and never forces doors and locks. Today, Tatiana baked an apple pie and made an herbal tea, and we had wonderful five-o'clock tea on the roof. Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

  • Petrovichi

    This is the village of Petrovichi, next to my hometown in Smolensk region. The stone marks the place where, in 1920, Isaac Asimov was born. His parents were Jewish millers, they left the USSR and emigrated to the US when Isaac was just three years old. Asimov grew up in New York, never spoke Russian and became a professor of biochemistry and of course a very famous writer. Almost all of the Jewish people who did not leave this region were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War. I took some red apples from a very old apple tree. ate one and put the others on the monument to commemorate the writer and his people. Irina Novikova / @irina.f.novikova

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